In a conference room below the Wide Angle offices, five Youth Media Festival Committee members gathered closely around a laptop, scrolling through selections of photography to be featured in this month’s Youth Media Festival and this summer’s Traveling Photography Exhibit. Asked by Festival Coordinator Carey Chiaia to identify some common themes in the photos, the students listed encouragement, creativity, curiosity, environment, playful, and energetic as just a few examples. According to one student, LeRee’, “We’re discussing certain pictures to see if they bring on a message of youth trying to challenge stereotypes.”
All five students, LJ, Tyson, L’Ez, LeRee’, and Melissa, have been encouraged by the work they have seen in submissions from all throughout Baltimore. Chiaia explained that the students have been learning photography skills themselves, helping them to best to judge the submissions and choose which ones to showcase at both upcoming events. In building their own photography skills, the students say they have learned in particular to pay attention to the details of their surroundings. Le’Ez said that in one assignment, each completed a photo walk for about an hour, “taking pictures of things that are positive and negative in our environment.”
Students LJ and Tyson, who have both been with the committee since October, spoke about their own photography to challenge stereotypes about youth in Baltimore. LJ said her self-portrait showed how much she and other students “want to study and succeed through education.” Tyson’s portrait caught him jumping mid-air in a demonstration of his passion for parkour, challenging notions that “kids aren’t talented.” Likewise, LeRee’ said that in the month he’s been working with his peers on the committee, he has seen submissions “trying to tell people that youth really care about education” and pieces that will “show the country and the world that youth in Baltimore are capable of success.”
When it comes time to share all of the committee and fellow youths’ work at the Youth Media Festival and Traveling Photography Exhibit, Melissa said she hopes the audience will understand that the participants do not fit the stereotypes and that they are capable of expressing themselves through inspirational video. LJ added, “I would really like to see people encouraged and hope that people who have hidden talents will be able to stand up and pursue them.” Chiaia, who works closely with the Committee while still allowing them to do the planning and organizing, says the students have all become “very competent photographers and curators” and are continually strengthening these skills, as well as those in design, public speaking, and event organizing in preparation for the festival.
All of the committee members know that these skills they’ve learned through Wide Angle will help them excel in the variety of interests each wants to pursue in the future, from accounting, law, engineering, and architecture to real estate, design, journalism, and establishing a church. With such determination and motivation, these Baltimore youth are continually proving LeRee’s point: they have quite a bit to offer Baltimore, the country, and the world.
Tickets are available for the 8th annual Wide Angle Youth Media Festival. Reserve your tickets online.
Kaitlin Higgins is currently a senior communications and media studies major/peace studies minor at Goucher College. She is serving as a short-term intern for Wide Angle as part of an opportunity in an alternative media course. Kaitlin hopes to pursue further education and eventually a career in multimedia journalism and is particularly interested in writing and documentary photography.